Tuesday, January 25, 2011

* Introduction

New Haven artist Clarence Brodeur unveils (1980) his new portrait of Douglas Clyde Macintosh which hangs today in the Common Room of Yale Divinity School. He donated the new portrait to replace the commissioned portrait of Macintosh he had painted in 1950, which was vandalized in  1965.
When I enrolled in Yale Divinity School in 1976, I knew very little about Douglas Macintosh, except that my parents adored him as a friend and mentor and had sought to honor him by giving me his name. (I quickly learned that he had a "terribly British" middle name which I confess I was relieved to discover my parents had omitted from their tribute.)

But if I knew little of Douglas Clyde Macintosh, I soon discovered that, three decades after his death, his own Divinity School remembered even less of him.  His writings and memory stood practically abandoned: His portrait (vandalized during the 1960's protest era) lay in shreds in the basement of the Yale Art Gallery; his Fellowship, bequeathed to Yale by his widow, Hope Conklin Macintosh, had fallen into disuse; and (with the loyal exception of Randolph Crump Miller), his name was almost never uttered in Yale classrooms.  Indeed, Professor Miller characterized this situation as "a blackout on Macintosh."

Under this sad cloud I began my private campaign to exhume Dr. Macintosh's memory.  This pamphlet of tributes is one fruit of that private effort: That it has grown into a public centennial celebration is quite accidental, for I almost missed the fact that 1977 is Dr. Macintosh's centennial anniversary.  Even at this writing, I still do not know the exact date of his birth in Ontario, Canada.  His place of burial, Whitneyville Cemetery in Hamden, Connecticut, also denies us this information; for, there is no tombstone for him, but merely a marker for his first wife, Emily Powell, with the tiny words chiseled below her name, "wife of Douglas Clyde Macintosh."  It was only late in 1976 that I located his obituary, which is equally equivocal on the matter, stating simply that he was 71 years old.*  A few rudimentary arithmetical calculations led me to conclude that, had he lived, he would have been 99 years old.  And then it hit me: Next year would be his centennial.

At that very instant the Macintosh Centennial Committee was born. For the first year of its life it was a committee of one.  Now, as it begins the third year of its four-year celebration, the Macintosh Centennial Committee enjoys the assistance of three other Divinity students: Dinah Ansley, Karen Bjorn and Carol Brock.

The Committee has concentrated on four projects: 1.) replacement of the Macintosh portrait [this would be accomplished in 1979/80 when the original artist, Clarence Brodeur, agreed to re-paint a new portrait gratis]; 2.) reactivation of the Macintosh Fellowship and re-publication of Roland Bainton's Fellowship brochure [this was accomplished when the Executor of the Macintosh estate, Julian N. Hartt, threatened to demand an accounting from Yale of the funds bequeathed to Yale by Mrs. Macintosh; the Fellowship has since, again, fallen into disuse]; 3.) presentation of "Folly, Noise and Sin," dramatic readings of seven famous sermons and such from American history and literature; and 4.) publication of this pamphlet of tributes. We have had more success with some of these projects than others.

In this brief pamphlet [now blog] you will learn, as I did, that Dr. Macintosh was more than a teacher at the Divinity School, he was a nationally respected theologian; that his legal struggle was more than a court case, it was a pioneering contribution to the notion of "selective" conscientious objection and became one of the famous Supreme Court battles of the the 1920's and 1930's; and, that Douglas Clyde Macintosh's students did more than learn from him, they loved learning because of him.

I wish to thank the Centennial Committee members and Henri Nouwen and the artist Elizabeth Ruthstrom for their generous contributions to the work of the Committee.   I am especially grateful to the contributors to this publication for their loyalty to Douglas Macintosh.  I have made only minor editorial adjustments in transforming some of their contributions from letter-form to the present format.  I have added two editorial notes as points of information.

Respectfully submitted,

Paul Douglas Macintosh Keane
Macintosh Centennial Committee
September, 1978

*  Ronald B. Flowers,
John F. Weatherly Emeritus Professor of Religion at Texas Christian University,  informs me in a 1 / 28 /11 email that Douglas Clyde Macintosh  “was born February 18, 1877, in Breadalbane, Ontario, Canada.”  (See also bibliographic citations for Professor Flowers' articles on Macintosh at the end of Herman Will post in Blog Archive.) 

Note Link:    My Donation of Macintosh Chalice to Yale Law School

* Context

I am forgotten like a dead man out of mind: I am like a broken vessel.

KJV, 1611

My friends, in these two errors I think I find the causes of a decaying church and a wasting unbelief.  And what greater calamity can fall upon a nation than the loss of worship?  Then all things go to decay.  Genius leaves the temple, to haunt the senate or the market.  Literature become frivolous.  Science is cold.  The eye of youth is not lighted by the hope of other worlds, and age is without honor.  Society lives to trifles, and when men die, we do not mention them.

Ralph Waldo Emerson
An Address Delivered Before the Senior Class in Divinity College
Sunday evening
July 15, 1838

* Richard R. Niebuhr

Richard R. Niebuhr
Hollis Professor of Divinity Emeritus
Harvard University

" . . . As a teacher, Professor Macintosh was unquestionably very influential on H. R. Niebuhr, in the sense that he inspired in my father a deep respect and it was, I believe, partially in engagement with Macintosh's teaching and publications that my father formulated a number of issues that were to remain central in him for his lifetime.  I suspect that Macintosh along with Ernest Troeltsch early focused my father's mind on value theory. So far as the record goes, there is, of course the festschrift that Macintosh's students presented to him, to which both my father and reinhold Niebuhr contributed  . . ."

* Lucien A. DiMeo

Lucien A. Dimeo
Town of Hamden

I am pleased to join Yale Divinity School students in celebrating the centennial anniversary of the birth of one of Hamden's distinguished residents, Professor Douglas Clyde Macintosh, who made his home at 25 Woodlawn Street for many years and who is buried in Whitneyville cemetery.

He was not only an eminent theologian, but he carried on the tradition of outspoken individualism which those of us in Connecticut and Hamden understand and admire so much.

To speak the truth as you see it, even when it is unpopular, is the cornerstone of this great country.

In honoring the Macintosh Centennial we do not necessarily subscribe to Dr. Macintosh's opinions, but we celebrate the First Amendment of the United States' Constitution which protects and cherishes the right of all individuals in this great country to express the truth as they see it.

* Colin Williams

Colin Williams
Yale University Divinity School

It was not my privilege to have known Douglas Clyde Macintosh, nor do I claim any familiarity with his written work.  My acquaintance with him, therefore, is through the reports of his former colleagues and students.

The high personal regard in which he was held is what is most striking.  Clearly he was a man of conscience - - - and one who paid a price for his deep commitment to the cause of peace and justice.  As one whose central theological insistence was that faith centers in experience and that its truth is subject to empirical verification, his own life became for his students a profound illustration of the truth he embraced.

His commitment to the cause of pacifism is well-known as is his struggle all the way to the Supreme Court to appeal the denial of U.S. citizenship on the grounds of his opposition to the First World War.  As one reads the record of his life and of his long service to Yale as a teacher one is struck by the profound impression he made on his students.  They sensed his integrity; but even more, they experienced his personal commitment to each of them as a friend concerned to enable them to grow into the truth.

If the true value of a teacher can be measured by the continuing influence in the life of his students, Douglas Clyde Macintosh can clearly be counted among the great teachers of the Divinity School.


*J. Seelye Bixler

J. Seelye Bixler
President Emeritus
Colby College

It is always hard to put one's finger on the special qualities which distinguish the conspicuously great teacher, but in Macintosh's case I think it was simply the fact that he knew so much and talked about it so well. 

We recognized his prodigious scholarship and we responded to the marvelous luminousness of his presentation.  His classroom produced no fireworks.  He used no tricks of the trade or artificial stimulants to arouse our interest. he was reserved in manner, detached and seemingly almost shy. But what he said produced a tremendous effect.  Our minds responded to its range and accuracy, but what is interesting to look back on is that our hearts responded as well.  This is not only the real thing, we said to ourselves, but it is real for us, what we have wanted to know, representing what we have longed to achieve. It came home to us personally also in that it showed us what we could look forward to.  If these seemingly esoteric truths in all their formidable complexity could be made intelligible in this way and, so to speak, laid on the table before us, then there was a hope that we ourselves with our lesser abilities, might penetrate to their secrets in our own way. In spite of his quiet manner, Mac's classroom thus produced a drama that was unforgettable.

Of course he was not only a scholar.  His control of his material was such as to enable him to treat it creatively.  because he was an original thinker with a standpoint of his own his criticisms of our ideas had a sharp cutting edge.  We respected his empirical method and the theology it led to but it is interesting to think back on the fact that it challenged us instead of converting us.  We were devoted disciples of the man but we tried to express our devotion in following ideas of our own  --- risky as this might be.

Objective as he was and seemingly detached, as I have hinted, there was never any question of his intense interest in us as persons and his concern that we should have the best he could provide.  We loved him because we knew he loved us.

* Roland H. Bainton

Roland H. Bainton
Titus Street Professor of Ecclesiastical History Emeritus
Yale University Divinity School

In 1959 when the Macintosh fellowship was established I composed a little brochure to be given to each of the recipients. It contained brief sketches of the donor Hope Conklin Macintosh and of Douglas.  He commenced his teaching at Yale in 1909. Here he was responsible for establishing in the Graduate School the Department of Religion, of which he was the chairman from 1920-1938. As for his views and his influence on students I venture to repeat what I wrote in the brochure.

He described his own religious position as that of "untraditional orthodoxy."  While always a defender of the faith, he considered the best defense to be the relinquishment of the untenable.  This meant that the theologian could not hold out against the historian: whatever happened in the past happened, and whatever did not happen did not happen., and the only way to find out is through examination of the documents.  The scrutiny must be as rigorous in the case of the Biblical documents as for any other.  But research implies uncertainty and religion can brook no uncertainty, at least not on points of vital importance.  Therefore, religion must be independent of history, even the Christian religion, which takes its rise from the Jesus of history. Should it be proved, as it had not been, that Jesus never lived, Christianity might nevertheless survive.  On this assumption, in a book entitled The Reasonableness of Christianity, Macintosh devoted one hundred and thirty-five pages to a defense of Christianity without mentioning Jesus at all.  In defense of the procedure he said:

"It has been through no oversight that nothing has been said of Christology or the historical Jesus.  There is an important tactical advantage in showing how extensive and vital is that content or essence of Christianity which can be defended successfully without any assumption as to particular facts of history.  We escape the danger of infecting the entire content of essential Christian belief with the necessary incertitude of historical opinion.  All that has been said of the reasonableness and truth of Christianity is demonstrably valid, whether we have any Christology or not, and whatever we may or may not believe about the historical Jesus.  It would still be valid if it should turn out that Jesus was essentially different from what has been commonly believed, or even that he was not truly historical at all . . . it is the systematic thinker's task to lead faith to a sure foundation, independent of the uncertainties of historical investigation."

But if, then, the certitude of the Christian religion does not rest on the facts of history, on what does it rest? Where is the assurance to be found?  This question led to wrestling with the problem of knowledge - - - in general and with reference to religion.  Two of Macintosh's books were devoted to the inquiry: The Problem of Knowledge in 1915 and The Problem of Religious Knowledge in 1940. He was in the tradition of the Scottish Common Sense Realists.  Current philosophy, he held, had wandered in the ways of sophistication until it fain would fill its belly with the husks of skepticism, thus invalidating not only religion but also science.  At the same time science was arrogant in assuming on its part a knowledge more assured than that of religion.  Knowledge rests on experience, and in the name of common sense we can assume immediacy of experience with reference to the natural world, though to be sure our sense impressions require critical correction.  So in religion, there is an immediacy of experience of the divine, again fraught with error and in need of rational check.  The body of assured data, available to those who make the "right religious adjustment" is, however, so large that one may speak of Theology as an Empirical Science., the title of one of his books in 1919.

The social implications of Christianity, though lying outside the immediate field of theology, concerned him gravely and occasioned in 1919 a book entitled Social Religion. His interest was more than academic.  During the first World War as a chaplain to the Canadian forces in France and later as  a Y.M.C.A. worker with the American troops, he had to face the problem of the Christian attitude toward war.  At that time he was able to urge upon the men the obligation the supreme sacrifice, which for the Christian is not to die but to kill.  Later disillusionment as to the "iniquitous 'peace to end all peace' " engendered a "profound distrust of war as a way of settling anything."  When he applied for U.S. citizenship in 1929, he "would not promise in advance to bear arms in defense of the United States unless he believed the war to be morally justified."  The Supreme Court in 1931 denied him citizenship by a vote of five to four. The dissenting opinion was delivered by Chief Justice Hughes.

Douglas Macintosh was a stimulating teacher who engendered and fructified the thinking of a generation of distinguished students.  In 1937, they dedicated to him a collection of essays under the title The Nature of Religious Experience, in which they testified to their "respect for his wisdom . . .their admiration for his integrity and their love for him as a friend."  Integrity was a well-chosen word. Professor Werdermann of Berlin spoke of him as  candida anima, a spirit without guile.  The English word "candid" applied to him also.  He was as frank as he was friendly in disclosing to another his faults.  But he was never censorious and was especially glad to be encouraging to those who needed encouragement.  Seelye Bixler, who was to become president of Colby College, in 1922 needed guidance and reassurance about his profession and about himself.  Of the help which he received from Douglas Macintosh, he reports, "He made scholarship seem not hopelessly difficult, but within the range of one's own feeble capacities.  So strikingly clear were all his pronouncements that you felt the lure of the subject matter as irresistible and had no interest in your doubts about yourself."

There was Souren Vetsigian , who has been now for many years in Bulgaria.  In 1931 he gave a report which elicited  no enthusiasm from a seminar.  He was depressed until Macintosh told him that it had the making of an article.  That encouragement started him toward the production of several books which have appeared in Armenian. The professor's concern extended to the wives and children of students also.  When the Peter Goertz family, en route to China, was at the station in Vancouver, B.C., whom should they meet but Douglas Macintosh!  While Peter was attending to tickets the professor sat down with Mrs. Goertz and gave her words of cheer.  The Baintons remember him holding their first baby during the cutting of her toenails.

He was twice married, first to Emily Powell on February 13, 1921. She died died on November 2, 1922 [in childbirth, as did the baby].  The following week happened to be his assignment for chapel.  He did not flinch but on the first day read as his Scripture the verse from the prophet Habakkuk: "Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall the fruit be in the vines; the labor of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: yet will I rejoice in the Lord, I will joy in the God of my salvation."